Friday, March 14, 2014

Renee's Reading: 2014-03-01 through 2014-03-07

Let me start with a little housekeeping note. I realized when I sat down to write this post that there's going to be a little bit of a lag on these, because I snag time to blog in bits and pieces all week long, and it takes time to pull together the links and images and stuff. The idea of one week's post covering 10 days and the next week's only covering 4 if the timing didn't quite work out sat badly in my brain, so I'm cutting them off one week back.

And now, without further ado, welcome to my first weekly reading review!

The Serpent Prince, by Elizabeth Hoyt

Country bred Lucy Craddock-Hayes is content with her quiet life. Until the day she trips over an unconscious man--a naked unconscious man--and loses her innocence forever.


Viscount Simon Iddesleigh was nearly beaten to death by his enemies. Now he's hell-bent on vengeance. But as Lucy nurses him back to health, her honesty startles his jaded sensibilities--even as it ignites a desire that threatens to consume them both.


Charmed by Simon's sly wit, urbane manners, and even his red-heeled shoes, Lucy falls hard and fast for him. Yet as his honor keeps him from ravishing her, his revenge sends his attackers to her door. As Simon wages war on his foes, Lucy wages her own war for his soul using the only weapon she has--her love. . . 

I checked out the first two books in this series a while back, but this one wasn't available at the time and it fell off my TBR somehow. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago, when Victoria Dahl listed the second book, The Leopard Prince, as one of her "10 Dirty Romance Novels" for Publishers Weekly. I don't usually let a series go half-read, particularly not one I enjoyed, so I put a hold on this (because it wasn't available again) and my turn in the queue finally came this week.

I'm so glad I got the reminder and put a hold on it this time. I enjoyed this book. Simon tortures himself beautifully, and I do love it when an author really messes with a character's head. The romance was charming and just realistic enough to make me smile. The love scenes were nice and steamy without being too over the top.

I didn't really get into the action/suspense side of the story very much. It was well written and all, and interesting from a psychological perspective in some cases, but it wasn't really my cup of tea. I would also have liked to see a little bit more natural interaction with some of the characters from the previous books in the series. I know there's an expectation in this kind of series to pop a few cameos into the story here and there to connect everything, but if they're going to be there, they should be there for a reason. Harry Pye's cameo particularly seemed a little forced. He just sort of walks into one scene, drops a couple lines of dialogue, and then walks back out again.

Overall, as I said, I enjoyed the book; it was a nice romance novel that made me smile and kept me company for an afternoon.

Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
What do gorgons, basilisks, and frogs with feathers all have in common? They're all considered mythological by modern science, and some people are working very hard to keep them that way. Alexander Price is a member of a cryptozoological lineage that spans generations, and it's his job to act as a buffer between the human and cryptid worlds--not an easy task when you're dealing with women who has snakes in place of hair, little girls who may actually be cobras, and brilliant, beautiful Australian zookeepers. And then there's the matter of the murders. . .

Alex thought he was choosing the easier career when he decided to specialize in non-urban cryptids, leaving the cities to his little sister, Verity. He had no idea what he was letting himself in for. It's a family affair, and everyone--from his reanimated grandfather to his slightly broken telepathic cousin--is going to find themselves drawn in before things get any better.

This one was dropped off by the Preorder Fairy overnight and was waiting for me when I woke up on Tuesday morning. I had to force myself to get any work done on Tuesday at all, because all I wanted to do was sit down and read. Good thing Tuesday was an easy scene to finish. I managed to get my words for the day down in almost record time.

I love this series and this book was another great addition. I was a little nervous going in, because I knew the narrator and venue were changing and I had come to love Verity and her adventures with New York, and Dominic, so much. But Alex and Shelby are fantastic; I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

Alex is such a charming nerd. I adore him. I'm not big on lizards, myself, and you'd never catch me tromping around a swamp in a million years, but he makes it work somehow. And Shelby. . .  well, I just see her shaking her head and laughing at the whole mess, incredulous but still hanging onto her gun while all the secrets she thought she was in on get turned on their ear and everything just sort of burns to the ground. Literally, in one case.

The great mix of action and humor I've come to expect from McGuire's writing was out in full force in this book as well. The story yanked me from page to page until the very end with no real "dead spots" where I wanted to put it down.

I loved every moment we got to spend with Sarah as well. I'm so glad we're getting to follow her after the events in Midnight Blue-Light Special, because that's a story element that just tugs at me.

I do wish we'd gotten more information about the Jonathan and Fran story that was hinted at, or about why some notes were apparently burned, but I'm not going to really whine about an author traipsing down a bunny trail that happened to catch my eye but wasn't actually relevant to the plot. (Plus, I'm hopeful that maybe that's all in an upcoming short story or something.)

Speaking of the mice--yeah, I know I wasn't actually speaking of the mice, but if you've read the book, you'll probably get the transition my brain just made--I do wish we could have seen more of the mice. I'm not sure that's a realistic criticism either though, because I'm betting McGuire could write a whole novel about nothing but the Aeslin mice and I'd finish it saying I wish we could have seen more of the mice. I love those little guys. And I don't even like mice.

And finally, there was this:
I love Marvin the Martian. Even if I hated everything else in this book, McGuire would have had me at "kaboom". I have officially declared her my leader.

Wayfarer, by Lili St. Crow
The Charmer's Ball. Midnight. And one glass slipper. . .

Newly orphaned, increasingly isolated from her friends, and terrified of her violent stepmother, Ellen Sinder still believes she'll be okay. She has a plan for surviving and getting through high school, which includes keeping her head down and saving any credits she can earn or steal. But when a train arrives from over the Waste beyond New Haven, carrying a golden boy and a new stepsister, all of Ellie's plans begin to unravel, one by one.

Just when all hope is lost, Ellie meets an odd old woman with a warm hearth and a heavenly garden. Auntie's kindness is intoxicating, and Ellie finally has a home again. Yet when the clock strikes twelve on the night of the annual Charmer's Ball, Ellie realizes that no charm is strong enough to make her past disappear. . .

In a city where Twisted minotaurs and shifty fey live alongside diplomats and charmers, a teenage girl can disappear through the cracks into safety--or into something much more dangerous. So what happens when the only safety you can find wants to consume you as well?

I got a bonus, not-Tuesday, new book day and another visit from the Preorder Fairy this week, because Wayfarer came out on Thursday! It's Lilith Saintcrow and I really liked the first book in the series, so I had to almost physically chain myself to my desk in order to get any work done. Words at the end of the week were tough this week and I wanted to curl up under a blanket with this book so badly, which combined to make my writing time on Thursday and Friday take forever. :-(

(If I hadn't already been eye-twitching exhausted from an incredibly long week, I probably would have pulled an all-nighter for this one. But there are kids to mind during the day and such and I'm not as young as I used to be anyway.)

It was worth the wait. I loved this book! The whole story was so beautifully dark and sinister. By the end, even with all the cynical genre awareness I could muster, I was right there with Ellen, wondering how in the heck anyone could expect this story to resolve into an even remotely happy ending. It's a young adult fairy tale retelling, so there has to be a happy ending, right? Right?!? But it is Lilith Saintcrow, so maybe. . . not. . . ?

Ellen was missing from large chunks of Nameless (which makes perfect sense, as cutting the victim off from potential allies is pretty much boilerplate for abusers) and so I didn't really know what to expect from her. Ellen is a wonderfully written character, portraying the mental and emotional chaos that comes with child abuse without being a "statement" about the mental and emotional chaos that comes with child abuse. She's faced with all horrible choices and crippled by exhaustion and pain and flawed reasoning, and my heart bled for her through the whole thing.

Rich, compelling worldbuilding is coming to be a standard expectation for me where Saintcrow's writing is concerned and I was not disappointed by this story one bit. I would say I could practically see myself living in New Haven, but I won't, because that's a boring cliché. And it's one screwed up, terrifying, creepy place and I don't think I would last a day, possibly not even an hour, in the world Saintcrow has created there anyway.

I read three books last week and I liked them all; I'll count that as a win! What about you? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Read anything else interesting lately?

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